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Techventure 2012 Singapore

17 October 2012 No Comment
So Techventure 2012 started today.
I HAD to be there.
But I did not know anyone who could help me get in. Would have loved to buy tickets, but (A) those were too expensive for me at this stage of my start-up and (B) there was a better way.
Over the years, this canvas has taken the brunt of my opinions. Plus the influence built through years of  publishing works out. Helps me meet super cool people. And get invites to fab events like these.
My key agenda for attending Tech Ventures was obviously to meet with people- especially anyone from the start-up ecosystem who could be of any help, especially with funding.
Yes I am talking about The Whiz Times.
It has started getting good traction, and I think it is ready to get into a new trajectory. Now is the time.
Anyways, so about Techventure 2012 (From the description sent by the nice folks at Hill and Knowlton):

 

Techventure 2012, presented by the National Research Foundation (NRF), co-presented by Singapore Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SVCA) and organised by Asiasons Group opened this morning.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Asian.Innovation.Renaissance”, highlights the economic transformation of Asia and the opportunities for businesses to capitalise on this growth through technological innovation, with Singapore as a springboard into the region.

Today was Day 1, and a summary of the events I found interesting:
1. Panel discussion on
Investors’ Perspectives on Growth Sectors in Asia
The panel casting was impressive:

Moderator:

Professor David Llewelyn
Deputy Dean
Singapore Management University
School of Law

Panelists:
John Wu
Former CTO
AliBaba
Co-Founder
F&H Fund

Dave McClure
Founder
500 startups

Russel Simmons
Co-Founder
Yelp

Wei Hopeman
Managing Director
Citi Ventures Asia-Pacific

Dave McClure : Founder, 500 start-ups.

What are the sectors he is bullish about? Hear this> He views family, education, school, – these sectors to be a large market opportunity.

(Bang on! Sectors that The Whiz Times is addressing! And we started because of a pure personal need felt.  There was a huge gap, a practical need, someone needed to fill that. And we just started off!) 

Russel Simmons: Co-founder- Yelp: You want to know what he is betting on? Yes. Education, family, kids.
So Oh My God! The first panel I attend, has two influential people already talking about the sector we have been in, that we have been trying to build upon, for the last 7 months! I should have spent lesser time building my product, honing my content and stepping out to do some networking. But again, matters of heart. I prefer building a good product first.
Wei Hopeman: Citi Ventures APAC: They seem to be betting on Mobile/social/data/security. That to me is a little vague, but seems like they are open to anything or any service that seems to address those niches in an interesting way. Well, The Whiz Times is not specifically any of those- but it does address those mediums/sectors in multiple ways. Just because the audience is a great niche and content opportunities are unique, we are in there too, in our own, unique ways.
John Wu: Ex-CTO, Alibaba: He is betting on cloud computing. Again, great niche with great opportunities. Inspite of AWS, rackspace, saleforce.
He made a good point on if  “The World is flat”: He said that innovation is not just hard science, specially in the Asian perspective, it needs understanding of culture, local habits and people. American companies are good in hard science, but lack in understanding Asian people and culture.
Summary of the panel- message for Western start-ups coming to Asia: Be courageous, adaptable and flexible
2. Panel on quest in Asia for innovative talents

Techventure2012

Track A : The Quest in Asia for Innovative / Entrepreneurial Talents

Over 6,000 startups have been venture funded in Asia since 2005. From incubators to start-up accelerators, hack-a-thons, competitions, capital, social acceptance, role models and mentors ~ Asia’s start-up ecosystem is exploding. How does the ASEAN region cultivate the “Age of Entrepreneurs”? What are the advantages for tech start-ups in the region and what are the challenges? Does Asia have sufficient talent to fuel its innovation growth? Where are these people to be found and how can they be engaged?
How to find and engage them?

Moderator:
Margo Drakos
Founder
Appbridge

Panelists:

Martin Hartono
CEO
GDP Ventures

Deepinder Dhingra
Head of Products & Strategy
MuSigma

Murli Ravi
Head, South Asia Investments
JAFCO Investment (Asia Pacific) Ltd

George Kellerman
Venture Partner
500 Startups

Some key problems that investors (on the panel) saw with start-ups were

  • Scaling up issues: (Deepinder from New Sigma): ” some start-ups have good ideas, good teams, good product- but they lack the ability to scale up the product and to make it commercially viable. “
  • Lack of dreaming big: Murli from South Asia investments/ JAFCO investments: Hi tech is not the only sector, take any sector. But dream big.
  • Early stage mentoring lacks: George from 500 start-ups: “Everyone should mentor a start-up and probably invest 5k in the start-up. Pick one start-up and just do it “
Advise on valuations and funding:
  • There is a gap in funding ecosystem in Asia. Firstly because of less risk tolerance in Asia. Second- capital needs returns. And the returns are not there. Very few companies have made hundreds of millions in the Asian space via M&As and exits
  • An entrepreneur needs to be inspired by their product, rather than beyond looking for an exit. Are they willing to stay the course?
  • Are entrepreneurs solving their own problem? That is the most powerful signal that there was a gap.
The highlight of this discussion was a question from the floor about VCs going overboard with financial interrogations. But the panel saw that trend changing, with a lot of financiers coming  from non-banking sectors as compared to earlier.
All in all, for me, as a start-up,- quite a confidence building event- and makes me feel even more comfortable that the future is with us.
Bigger than all the hype around mobile, social, big-data- is reaching out to a clear niche, addressing a problem and executing a great product. Rest everything is just a medium. 
Techventure 2012 moves into its second day tomorrow with the much anticipated face-off between technopreneurs of the East and West. Both parties will discuss the reasons behind the success of start-ups that have thrived in either market but not both. The session encourages audience participation and aims to identify concepts that will have universal appeal to both markets.